A squirrel banquet
If you're a fan of cowboy hats, old pickup trucks, flannel shirts, enormous deer racks, big fish and cathead biscuits with sawmill gravy, then you're going to like the subject of this week's column squirrels.
I love the sweet aroma of squirrel and I'm surprised at most folks with serving the little guys. Squirrel is one of the best-tasting of game animals, which makes sense when you consider all the good things a squirrel eats. If you like wild game as much as my family does, you should figure on one squirrel per person when cooking up a meal. For best results, a squirrel should be eaten soon after it is harvest ed as you can. It's not a wild game animal that you can keep forever. Squirrel is more likely to become freezer-burned than many other game animals because of the small size.
One of the best ways that I have found to keep and freeze squirrel pieces is in milk cartons filled with water. My freezer space is limited, so I sometimes triple wrap them. First Saran wrap, then aluminum foil and finally freezer paper.
Several months ago, six of us got together and baked up the last of a bunch of squirrels that we shot on a late fall hunting trip south of town. Notice I said "baked" not fried. Either way, they are delicious, but this time we baked them. First of all, let me give you a tiny hint. If the squirrel you shot is old and tough, then it is best to steam them first in a pressure cooker or parboil them. I prefer to parboil them.
First cut the squirrel up into pieces. I parboil them in salted water until tender - from 20 to 30 minutes (put a lid on the skillet or kettle when you do this. It helps hold the steam in and hastens the tenderizing process). Use a 10-inch by 10-inch Pyrex dish. The more squirrels, the bigger the dish needs to be. You can roll the squirrels in cornmeal, fish batter or stuffing mix. I prefer Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing (the small short-cut size). Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt one half stick of butter (don't use margarine or soft spread as they tend to stick and burn).
Dip the squirrel into the butter, then into the stuffing. Place the squirrel into the baking dish. Pour the left over butter and stuffing over the squirrel. I use about two of stuffing per squirrel. Place in the oven and bake uncovered for 45 minutes to one hour. For more than one squirrel, just add more butter and more stuffing mix. And I guarantee you it is good, good, good. Note: Mrs. Nicklasson and Dr. Bernard - if you're reading this, you know why my cholesterol is so high in your lab tests. But boy, oh boy, does it ever taste good.
You can serve this simple, easy-to-prepare gourmet meal anyway you choose. The six of us guys had potato salad, cherry and blueberry pies, garlic bread, baked beans and washed it down with lots of steaming hot coffee. It's a banquet to be sure.
Several columns back, I mentioned that one of our local anglers - Arlin Dickinson - was headed to Devil's Lake, N.D., for some winter yellow perch fishing. The other morning I was having breakfast at the Hy-Vee Deli and had a chance to touch base with him.
He's back in Webster City and reports that the fishing was good. Actually, it was better than that. It was fantastic. Devil's Lake lived up to its reputation and then some. If it is perch you're after, or great winter fishing, then Devil's Lake is the place to go. I've heard so many great things about the place year-after-year, that I'm going to have to go up there and try it out for myself. A meal of deep-fat-fried yellow perch is indeed hard to beat. Next to flathead catfish and trout, I think perch are one of the most flavorful fish. Whether you fry them, bake them, grill them or pickle them, they always taste great.
A bull moose taken by Heinz Naef, Dawson City, Yukon Territory, has been verified by Boone and Crocket Club as the new world record. With a final score of 263 5/8 points, the bull has the largest antlers ever scored. Naef shot the big bull during a self-guided hunt near Stewart Island. He walked to within 35 yards before taking the shot with a .303 British using open sights. He was hunting for winter meat, not a trophy, and removed the antlers from the skull with a chainsaw, nicking them in the process.
It's here. It's on. The birds are starting to return. Flickers are showing up among mixed flocks of robins. Common mergansers. Canvasbacks and redheads, and blue-winged teals are showing up at Beemer's Pond. Blackbirds, both red-winged and rusty can be seen along the roadsides.
And now have a good weekend.